To anyone who has said that 2016 can’t get any worse, may I respectfully say
She told the story every year with a warm smile on her face. Sometimes her eyes got a little bit misty.
“It was 1943, and the War was on, and your father was in the Navy, on a ship somewhere in the Pacific. We never knew where he was. Like all the other boys I knew, he was in danger every day. We lived for the mail, we were terrified of unfamiliar visitors in uniform. A telegram sent us into a panic. And ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ had just been recorded by Bing Crosby. It was Number One on the Hit Parade.”
That’s how Mom started the story every time.
Of course I’ll Be Home For Christmas was Number One that year. Everyone, or just about, was hoping that someone they loved would, in fact, be home for Christmas. That all the boys would be home for good. But all too many people were disappointed. I doubt there were many dry eyes when that song came on the radio that year or for the next few.
Mom and Dad got engaged right around Pearl Harbor Day, but the War lengthened their courtship significantly because Dad enlisted shortly after the attack. It was to be a long war, and a long engagement. But Mom was in love with her handsome man. But Dad was even more so.
My Dad was drop-dead gorgeous, and I have heard that in his single days, he was a bit of a ladies’ man. Every girl in town, it seemed, had a crush on Dad.
In fact, my Aunt Sally once told me that she had been manning a booth at a church bizarre one Saturday in about 1995, when an elderly woman came up to talk to her.
“Are you Freddie E’s sister?” the woman asked Aunt Sal.
“Yes I am. Do you know my brother?” Aunt Sal responded.
“I did,” she sighed. “I haven’t seen him since we graduated from high school in 1935. Sixty years ago. He was,” she stopped to think of just the right word, “… He was dream-my.”
“He still is,” Sally quipped.
One day not long after after Mom had passed, Dad and I were looking at some pictures I hadn’t seen before.
“Dad,” I told him with wonder looking at a particularly good shot, “You should have gone to Hollywood. You’d have been a star.”
“Nah,” Dad said. “Mom would never have gone with me. And once the war was over, well, I wasn’t going anywhere else without her.”
Dad never quite got over feeling lucky that he had Mom. And he never stopped loving her.
But back to Mom’s story.
“It was Christmas morning, 1943, and I went over to visit Dad’s mom and dad. Grammy E’d had symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease for seven or eight years at that point. She could still move around (she was later, when I knew her, almost completely paralyzed), but she could barely talk.”
Mom continued. “But your Dad’s mom was singing ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’ Well, she was trying to sing it, any how. She kept repeating that one line, over and over again. ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’ I thought she was crazy.”
“You see,” Mom would say, “Your father had somehow managed to get Christmas leave – he was coming home! He wanted to surprise me and wouldn’t let anyone tell me he was coming. He was expected any minute, and there I was, trying to leave. But I couldn’t stay. That song made me cry; Freddie was so far away, and in so much danger. I couldn’t bear hearing it.”
So Mom left after a while, she had other people and her own family to see. Later Dad caught up with her and they spent most of Christmas together. Both of them always smiled at the memory. Dad was home for Christmas that year, just like in the song. It was a magical year for them both.
Mom was always touched by Dad’s surprise and by his mother’s loving gesture in fighting back the paralysis that was taking over her body to try to get her son’s girl to stay. To sing when she could barely speak.
“I’ve always wished I’d stayed.”
We lost Mom on Easter of 1997, and Dad really never got over her passing.
The song and Mom’s story took on an even more poignant meaning in 2000. Because on Christmas of that year, Dad joined Mom again for the holiday. He went “home” to Mom for Christmas again, joining her in the afterlife.
Even through the sadness of losing Dad on Christmas, I always have to smile when I hear that song. Because I can just see the warmth in Mom’s eyes now as she welcomed Dad home. This time, I’m sure she was waiting for him with open arms.
I re-post this story every year, because it makes my heart feel a little bit merrier.
You’ve been asking for more poop from me. Be careful what you wish for.
Because today is World Toilet Day!
This morning, I was inspired as shit by my friend Judy when she alerted me to the arrival of World Toilet Day (which I’d somehow forgotten?!?) and to Mr. Toilet himself. And to this article.
Mr. Toilet is my hero. Seriously.
Mr. Toilet was not born with that name. Nope, Mr. Toilet is actually a rich, big-hearted man named Jack Sim who wants to do good in the world with the shitload of money he made in construction. So, being flush with cash, Jack was inspired when he read a statement by his country’s (Singapore) then prime minister:
He said we should measure our graciousness according to the cleanliness of our public toilets.
As a travel lover, let me tell you that nothing, and I do mean nothing, says “welcome” like a clean, accessible toilet. (As a Crohn’s patient, however, I stay home a lot.)
As I said last year on this auspicious occasion,
The point of World Toilet Day is actually pretty important. People without access to hygienic facilities risk illness, many women are preyed upon and attacked as they seek out a place to go. Diseases are transmitted, including infections, cholera, well, here’s a picture.
Mr. Toilet founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001. As Judy’s article says:
It’s a nonprofit coalition of leaders from more than 40 countries who try to come up with innovative solutions to tackle the world’s sanitation and water problems.
Together these loo lovers started the World Toilet College and SaniShop, initiatives that train entrepreneurs not only to make household toilets but also to maintain them and market them in the developing world. More than 4,000 people have been trained since 2005; the WTO says that up to 10,000 toilets were assembled in 2010 alone.
But it’s the way Mr. Toilet wants to go about increasing toilets that hit me where I live.
So first you have to make owning a toilet not just rational but aspirational. You have to make a toilet come with bragging rights, like a Louis Vuitton handbag.
Aspiration is important, as you can see even rich people have really nice toilets — they go for the highest level all the time. So this is the same as the poor people. They aspire to own products that have bragging rights, like a cellphone or television. The psychology is exactly the same.
He wants to first make owning and using a toilet funny, then sexy, and then normal. He wants to remove the taboo on poo. He wants people to laugh about, talk about and sing about toilets.
Here. I’ll help.
Who knew that World Toilet Day would lead me to find the theme song for my life.
Friday, 11/11/16 is a big day in my family. It’s Adoption Day. Our 25th.
You see, on November 11, 1991, my husband John and I adopted our son, Jacob. He was 3-1/2 months old at the time. Jacob was born in Chile, and John and I literally traveled to the end of the earth to turn a happy couple into a happier three-some. It was on 11/11 when the Chilean court approved us and said, yes, Elyse and John, “You’re Parents!”
For years, I’ve told Jacob that I knew something was up with that number. As a teenager, I was fixated on 11:11. I got a clock radio for my 16th birthday – it was an old-fashioned “digital” clock, with numbers that literally flipped on a carousel. Every night I waited until 11:11 before I could go to sleep, no matter how tired I was. I’ve always told Jacob that, even though I didn’t know what it meant then, well, my heart obviously knew that 11:11 meant something. Something big.
But I didn’t know just how big or just how wonderful.
Because 11/11 = Jacob. Our son, my baby, our boy, our young man. Our hilariously funny, nutty, astute guy. Our pride and joy. Jacob, you continue to delight, amuse and inspire us. We love you, Peanut.
And because we all need to laugh, here’s one of Jacob’s favorite Elevens. And we all need to laugh, don’t we?
And Happy Veterans Day to any/all Veterans.
[This is a re-post. Updated. Because I’m busy. Sheesh.]
Today would have been my mom’s 97th birthday. She’s been gone a while now.
She was a singer in her twenties, well known locally for her smoky, sultry voice. According to one version of my parents’ “how we met” story, Mom was performing when Dad fell in love.
This was one of her favorites.
Happy Birthday Mom! I can still hear you singing.